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    A big event passing us by – Mass’ei

    sinaiThe story of the journeys of the Children of Israel seems prosaic, for example, “They encamped in the wilderness of Sinai” (Num. 33:15).

    We already know that Sinai was a stopping place. Why remind us?

    Yet if you slow down you ask the question: They stopped at Mount Sinai, certainly: but didn’t they have a great experience there? Wasn’t there a Divine Revelation, a Mattan Torah? The verse has not a word about it. What happened to the Revelation?

    The answer is probably that the list of stopping places is merely a geographical record. What happened at each point is told elsewhere; here more detail isn’t necessary. But there is a psychological aspect to the question. We often find ourselves on the sidelines of great events, like Israel at Sinai. The big events pass us by if we focus on banal details.

    When I was a seminary student there was a residents’ meeting when the college warden told us, “You boys think this place is here for you to learn Torah. For the janitor, it is doors, floors, bathrooms and bedrooms… and he has been complaining about how dirty you leave the bathrooms!”

    At Sinai there must have been people who were only interested in the beds and the food. The spiritual events left them unmoved.

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